BSc (Hons), PhD

Associate Professor

+44 (0)131 451 3733
Room 1.53
David Brewster Building
Heriot-Watt University
William N MacPherson
Roles and responsibilities

Teaching Duties

  • Head for Physics teaching
  • B28LT 2nd year experimental laboratory (Course leader)
  • B29EM 3rd year Electromagnetism (Course leader)
  • Advanced Laboratory & MSc Photonics Laboratory
  • Director for Energy Science and Technology physics programme

Research and Administration

  • Deputy Director of EngD Photonics
  • Laser Safety Officer – David Brewster Building (DBB), Earl Mountbatten Building (EMB)
  • Member of University Laser Safety Committee
  • Laser Safety representative on Safety Committee for DBB and EMB
  • Physics representative on EPS Outreach Committee
  • Institute ‘webmaster’


External Positions

  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics
  • Honorary Treasurerfor Institute of Physics in Scotland
  • Technical co-chair for 2013 European workshop on Optical Fibre sensors
  • Associate Editor for IEEE Sensors journal  

Outreach Activities

Schools workshops - including 'Cool Physics' - the science behind Liquid Nitrogen Ice cream, optics workshops including 'build your own spectrometer' and taking photographs with a 'box', electronics construction activities, and the 'mystery of magnetism'. These workshops have been run for a wide range of audiences from nursery school upwards!

As part of his involvement with the Institute of Phsyics he co-ordinates the Scottish Physics in the field activities.  In recent years this has taken place at a range of venues including Highland Games,Village and Country Fairs, Ski centres, and Science Festivals.  In 2010 events included a 2-day event at Cairngorm Ski centre - taking the experiments onto the ski slopes, and attending the Callandar Highland Games.  In 2011 we participated in the 'Bang-goes-the-Theory' interactive roadshow event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and attended events in Orkney and Dunfries and Galloway.  2012 saw us back at the Bang-Goes-the-Theory Edinburgh roadshow, at the Dumfries Science festival, and Ballater Highland Games.


William MacPherson is an Associate Professor in Physics and a member of the Applied Optics and Photonics research group in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences. His research interests are centred around the application of optical and fibre-optic techniques for measurement and instrumentation. This work includes high bandwidth temperature and pressure sensors for aerodynamic and explosion monitoring, novel fibres for structural monitoring, vibration and acceleration measurement, and studies into potential sensing applications of novel microstructured fibres. Many of these projects have been in colaboration with industry (such as QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce, Land Rover, Image Automation), and other Universities (including Oxford, Bath, Sheffield, Aston, Birmingham, and Leeds Universities).

He has published over 90 journal and conference papers in this area, and is on the organising committee for the 2010 European Workshop on Optical Fibre Sensors and local organising commitee for the 20th International Conference on Optical Fibre Sensors.

For further details of his research visit the AOP group website at


Selected publications

2014 Journal Publications

1. J. Li, F. Albri, J.N. Sun, M.M. Miliar, R.R.J. Maier, D.P. Hand and W.N. MacPherson, "Fabricating optical fibre-top cantilevers for temperature sensing", Meas. Sci. Technol. 25 035206, 2014

2013 Journal Publications

1. J. Sun, J. Li, R.R.J. Maier, D.P. Hand, W.N. MacPherson, M.K. Miller, J.M. Ritchie, X. Luo, "Fabrication of a side aligned optical fibre interferometer by focused ion beam machining", J. Micromech & Microeng., Vol. 23(10), Article Number: 105005, Oct 2013

2. R.N. John, I. Read, W.N. MacPherson, "Design considerations for a fibre Bragg grating interrogation system utilizing an arrayed waveguide grating for dynamic strain measurement", Meas Sci & Technol, Vol. 24(7), Article Number: 075203, Jul 2013

3. Frank Albri, Jun Li, Robert R J Maier, William N MacPherson and Duncan P Hand, "Laser machining of sensing components on the end of optical fibres", J. Micromech. Microeng. 23 045021, 2013 

4. R.R.J. Maier, W.N. MacPherson, J.S. Barton, M. Carne, M. Swan, J.N. Sharma, S.K. Futter, D.A. Knox, B.J.S. Jones, S. McCulloch, "Embedded Fiber Optic Sensors Within Additive Layer Manufactured Components," Sensors Journal, IEEE , vol.13, no.3, pp.969-979, March 2013

2011 Journal Publications

1. R.R.J. Maier, W.N. MacPherson, J.S. Barton, M. Carne, M. Swan, J.N. Sharma, S.K. Futter, D.A. Knox, B.J.S. Jones and S. McCulloch, "Fibre Optic Strain and Configuration Sensing in Engineering Components Produced by Additive Layer Rapid Manufacturing", IEEE Sensors, 2011 p. 1353-1357

2010 Journal Publications

1. R. Beck, J. Parry, W. MacPherson, A. Waddie, N. Weston, J. Shephard, and D. Hand, "Application of cooled spatial light modulator for high power nanosecond laser micromachining," Opt. Express 18, 17059-17065 (2010).

2. RRJ Maier, WN MacPherson, JS Barton, S McCulloch, BJS Jones, "Distributed sensing using Rayleigh scatter in polarization-maintaining fibres for transverse load sensing", Measurement Science & Technology, 21 (9), Art. No. 094019, SEP 2010  

2009 Journal Publications

1. J P Parry, B C Griffiths, N V Gayraud, E D McNaghten, A M Parkes, William N MacPherson and Duncan P Hand, “Towards practical gas sensing with micro-structured fibres”, accepted for publication in Measurement Science and Technology (2009)

2. Rui Suo, Joris Lousteau, Hongxia Li, Xin Jiang, Kaiming Zhou, Lin Zhang, William N. MacPherson, Henry T. Bookey, James S. Barton, Ajoy K. Kar, Animesh Jha, and Ian Bennion, "Fiber Bragg gratings inscribed using 800nm femtosecond laser and a phase mask in singleand multi-core mid-IR glass fibers," Optics Express 17, 7540-7548 (2009)

2008 Journal Publications

1. A. Fender, W.N. MacPherson, R.R.J. Maier, J.S. Barton, D.S. George, R.I. Howden, G.W. Smith, B.J.S. Jones, S. McCulloch, X. Chen, R. Suo, L. Zhang, I. Bennion, Two-Axis Temperature-Insensitive Accelerometer Based on Multicore Fiber Bragg Gratings, IEEE Sensors Journal, Vol 8, 1292-1298 (2008) DOI 10.1109/JSEN.2008.926878

2. N. Gayraud, L. W. Kornaszewski, J. M. Stone, J. C. Knight, D. T. Reid, D. P. Hand, and W. N. MacPherson, "Mid-infrared gas sensing using a photonic bandgap fiber," Journal of Applied Optics 47, 1269-1277 (2008)

2007 Journal Publications

1. R. R. Thomson, H. T. Bookey, N. D. Psaila, A. Fender, S. Campbell, W. N. MacPherson, J. S. Barton, D. T. Reid, and A. K. Kar, "Ultrafast-laser inscription of a three dimensional fan-out device for multicore fiber coupling applications," Opt. Express 15, 11691-11697, 2007 

2. Hongxia Li, Joris Lousteau, William N. MacPherson, Xin Jiang, Henry T. Bookey, James S. Barton, Animesh Jha, and Ajoy K. Kar , 'Thermal sensitivity of tellurite and germanate optical fibers', Optics Express, Vol. 15, Issue 14, pp. 8857-8863, 2007 

3. L. W. Kornaszewski, N. Gayraud, J. M. Stone, W. N. MacPherson, A. K. George, J. C. Knight, D. P. Hand, and D. T. Reid, 'Mid-infrared methane detection in a photonic bandgap fiber using a broadband optical parametric oscillator', Optics Express, Vol. 15, Issue 18, pp. 11219-11224, 2007. 

4. W.N. MacPherson, M. Reeves, D.P. Towers, A.J. Moore, J.D.C. Jones, M. Dale, and C. Edwards, 'Multipoint laser vibrometer for modal analysis', Applied Optics, 46(16), pp. 3126-3132, 2007 

5. W. Parkes, V. Djakov, J.S. Barton, S. Watson, W.N. MacPherson, J.T.M Stevenson, C.C. Dunare, 'Design and fabrication of dielectric diaphragm pressure sensors for applications to shock wave measurement in air', J. Micromech. Microeng. 17 (2007) 1334-1342

2006 Journal Publications

1. J. H. Rothwell, D. A. Flavin, W. N. MacPherson, J. D. Jones, J. C. Knight, and P. S. Russell, "Photonic sensing based on variation of propagation properties of photonic crystal fibres," Opt. Express 14, 12445-12450 (2006)

2. A. Fender, E. J. Rigg, R.R.J. Maier, W.N. MacPherson, J.S. Barton, A.J. Moore, J.D.C. Jones, D. Zhao, L. Zhang, I. Bennion, S. McCulloch, B. J.S. Jones, 'Dynamic two-axis curvature measurement using multicore fiber Bragg gratings interrogated by arrayed waveguide gratings', Applied Optics, Vol. 45, Issue 36, pp. 9041-9048, 2006

3. S. Watson, M.J. Gander, W.N. MacPherson, J.S. Barton, J.D.C. Jones, T. Klotzbuecher, T. Braune, J. Ott and F. Schmitz, ‘Laser-machined fibers as Fabry-Perot pressure sensors’, Applied Optics 45, 5590-5596 (2006)

4. G.A. Cranch, G.M.H. Flockhart, W.N. MacPherson, J.S. Barton, C.K. Kirkendall (2006) ‘Ultra-high-sensitivity two-dimensional bend sensor’, Electronics Letters 42, 29-30

5. S Watson, W N MacPherson, J S Barton, J D C Jones, A Tyas, A V Pichugin, A Hindle, W Parkes, C Dunare and T Stevenson, ‘Investigation of shock waves in explosive blasts using fibre optic pressure sensors’ Measurement Science and Technology 17, 1337-1342, 2006

6. W.N. MacPherson, M. Silva-Lopez, J.S. Barton, A.J. Moore, J.D.C. Jones, D. Zhao, L. Zhang, I. Bennion, N. Metje, D.N. Chapman, C.D.F. Rogers, Tunnel Monitoring using Multicore Fibre Displacement Sensor, Meas. Sci. Technol, 17, pp. 1180-1185, 2006

Further information

He also supports the department's Automatic Weather Station located on the summit of Cairngorm, the UK's 6th highest mountain. For more information about this station, and to see the latest data (refreshed 4 times daily) see Cairngorm Weather Station Homepage.

He is currently the Honorary Treasurer for the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Physics, and was previously the Honorary Secretary.